Baptism by fire

The new Hillsboro Arts & Crafts Fair director is counting on community volunteers to make the 36th annual fair a special event for as many as 50,000 visitors coming to the city Sept. 18.

“If everything comes off this year without a hitch, it’s thanks to the volunteers,” said Christy Wulf, 35. “I’ll take whatever accolades anyone throws me. But I know where all the thanks go-it’s to the people who step in and say, ‘For that day, I’m yours, and I’ll do whatever you need me to do.'”

Wulf was hired last November to take on the director’s duties from Donna Diener. The new director and fair-board members have been meeting monthly to plan this year’s event.

Relatively new to the area, Wulf attended the fair for the first time last year. Afterward, she told her mother, “I can’t think of anything here in Hillsboro to do. But if the director of the Arts & Crafts Fair position came open, I think I’d do that.”

About two weeks later, she found out the position was open and applications were welcomed.

Her family includes husband Lincoln, hired in July 2003 as the men’s soccer coach, director of retention and director of soccer operations at Tabor College. Married 11 years, the couple has two children: son Harrison, 8, and daughter Madison, 4.

Wulf was born in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., into a military family that moved every four to six years.

She graduated from Derby High School in 1987. She graduated in 1991 the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism and a concentration in business communications.

While in college, she worked for KAKE Channel 10 on a Fourth of July celebration held in Wichita.

“I helped organize volunteers, how they were going to sell buttons and maps, things like that,” Wulf said.

After graduation, she was hired as programs coordinator for a lobbying group.

“It was the Kansas Taxpayers Association headed up by the Garvey family of Wichita,” Wulf said. “We were kind of a grass-roots group trying to lower property taxes. I did a lot of document creation, ads, going out and talking to people and organizing.”

Before moving to Hillsboro in last August, she worked for the William Inge Theatre Festival in Independence.

For one year, she was hired as the assistant director of the festival, and the second year was in charge of Elder Hostel groups attending the festival.

“I absolutely loved the week of the festival because I went out and problem solved,” Wulf said about her second year. “I wasn’t behind my desk, I was out there to answer questions and fix things, and I had so much fun. It was an amazing festival to be a part of that year.”

In addition to her part-time job as fair director, Wulf works as part-time staff writer and photographer for the Hillsboro Star-Journal and is sponsor for the Hillsboro Middle School yearbook.

“I kind of do a lot of little things,” Wulf said. “It’s all things I enjoy doing.”

She also has many outside interests, such as gardening, shooting photos, working on the computer, watching soccer games, reading and spending time with her family.

Although she has many duties as director, Wulf said the major duty is mapping and assigning vendors their booth spaces at the fair.

“I thought it was going to be a piece of cake, but there are so many vendors and so many of them expect to be in the same spot as last year,” Wulf said regarding placing almost 380 vendors this year.

“They’ve previously graphed all the maps by hand. This year, I put everything on computer on a desktop publisher. I think it’s going to make it a lot simpler.”

In addition to programming the mapping system on the computer, Wulf entered all the vendors on a database to replace a handwritten list. The list is sorted by vendor names, but can easily be resorted by other parameters, such as the products they sell.

Wulf works with the chairs of the various committees, such as advertising and publicity, marking the booth spaces, heading the information booth and traffic control.

Under each chair is a group of volunteers. But by one week before the fair, she still hadn’t been given a list of volunteer names and didn’t know exactly how many were involved in this year’s fair.

“It’s hard stepping into the position, especially being new in town because you don’t have the background,” Wulf said. “I don’t know anybody. This has been trial by fire just meeting everybody and figuring out who everyone is.”

Wulf plans to change that situation. “I’m going to ask all the chairs to come in after the fair is over this year when we have our review meeting, and give me a report and a list of their volunteers.”

Taking on the job this year, she was handed a list of potential changes from last year’s event.

“A list doesn’t do me any good because I wasn’t there,” Wulf said. “But I can work toward changing that. I want to have more information after the fair. I want to sit down and see what worked and didn’t work. And how are we going to change it?”

Other long-term goals include seeing the fair become profitable again and encouraging more people to become involved as volunteers.

“I think it’s important to do more than break even if we’re going to continue as a charitable organization giving back to the community,” Wulf said. “I’d like to give more back to Hillsboro to beautify the city.”

Wulf talks with energy and enthusiasm about taking on the job of fair director for a town of 3,000 that is expected to increase by about 161/2 times its size for one day.

“I’m very organized, energetic and positive,” Wulf said. “I don’t like to sit still, and I get bored very easily when I don’t have a project. I like to get something done and see that I’ve done it well. It can crush me if I haven’t done it well, but that makes me work harder. You always have to learn from your mistakes.”

With the fair clock ticking, Wulf reflected on the help she’s received as she’s taken on her new job-one she is open to continuing.

“I appreciate the volunteers’ help, all the chair people’s help and my assistant director, Marcella Mohn,” Wulf said.

“It’s the community that steps up and says the Arts & Crafts Fair is important to us, and we’re going to volunteer and help make it happen.”

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